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Davos is a good spot to find your next job, CEO or not

24 January 2015

One morning in January 2006 at 7am, a 48-year-old woman left her hotel room to have breakfast.

As the chief executive of aluminium producer Alcan Primary Metal Group, she was in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. There was only one other person in the room, a friendly, white-haired Englishman, so she sat next to him and started chatting. His name was Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, who was then chairman of Anglo American.

Less than 10 months later, Cynthia Carroll, the 48-year-old breakfast eater, was appointed as Anglo’s first female, and first non-South African, chief executive.

Is Davos good for your career? I shall be waking up there this morning, so let’s hope so.

Why do so many senior people turn up to a small ski resort in the eastern reaches of Switzerland every year? Of course we know that it is primarily to debate the burning issues of the day with the world’s political leaders and a smattering of opinion formers from the worlds of art, science and economics.

It is not because they are looking for their next job. However, meeting people and building relationships with them does help your career prospects.

Sir Mark had met Ms Carroll, talked to her in an informal setting and been impressed. That will not have got her the job; but it could, if it had been a close call, have been the tiebreaker.

So, yes, Davos is worth the trouble of its endless security queues. You may think all the debates could just be viewed via webcast. But the proliferation of social media makes face-to-face interaction even more important. Because so many people are connected through the internet, it is difficult to distinguish between them. And that is why Davos is good for your career; it allows you to build relationships with career-influencing people, more quickly than any other event.

But I would argue that Davos is career-important not just for the 2,500 delegates at the meeting; after all, they have already achieved great success, and if they fail to bag a FTSE 100 job over breakfast, it may not make much difference to them.

No, where Davos is important is for the 7,500 people that come with them. If you are a journalist, for instance, then this might be your big chance to get that rare, career-changing interview with a head of state or a chairman, or to start the relationship that will yield it before long. If you are there supporting a chief executive, chairman or politician, who knows who might notice you and consider you right for their organisation next?

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